November 4, 2014. Does that date mean anything to you? Let's check our calendars... oh yes, that was a Tuesday! Tuesday ... anything? Bueller? Anyone? Bueller?
Well for any of us who may be out of the loop, it was voting day. If you voted, congratulations and thank you. Thank you for speaking up and making your voice heard. To the rest of us, including myself, we need to talk.
Before I delve into the problems that have manifested in our voting system, let us refer back to how things were at the start; to how things once looked and why.
1776. America -- a land whose strength and resilience rested in the power of the people's vote. This "power," this responsibility, was taken seriously because of the cost it took to obtain. Years of oppression, failed resolutions, and lives taken in war, are what it took to obtain this freedom. The most telling aspect of it all? Those who fought found the cause worthy enough to die for. In the words of Hildebrand, "Better to be a beggar in freedom than to be forced into making compromises against my conscience!" (1) Having lived under the reign of a depersonalizing authority long enough, those who stood and fought were convicted that breaking free, even if the result was death, would be better than not trying at all.
Regardless of where we fall in the debate of the personal disposition and ethical code the founders lived by, one thing was for certain: they desired freedom. At last, the dreamed reality of a free vote was given to the hands of the people and held with great honor and nobility. So much nobility, in fact, that its great responsibility was taken to an unfair extreme and only trusted with those deemed worthy: the elite.
Now there is a distinction here between the intent of what was done and what was actually done. What I want to focus on, for the sake of this blog at least, is the intent. Limiting the freedom to vote to the elite was wrong. This is clear. But why was voting limited? Aware of the possible repercussions of voting, founders didn’t want just anyone voting. Those entrusted with the right to vote were viewed as the strongest, smartest, and most capable. Founders recognized the immense power of a vote, how it could affect the very fate of their land, and wanted to ensure it was exercised by only the best of society.
Thank heavens America realized its own blindness and today every good standing citizen has the right to vote. Let me repeat that: every good standing citizen has the right to vote. Voting doesn't require inputting your annual income or a test to prove you honorable enough to vote. What makes you honorable enough, what makes you wealthy enough, what makes you trustworthy enough is that you are an American. That's it. No more. No less.
So we changed who is able to vote, but has that changed the very honor, power, and responsibility of a vote itself? NO. Has granting everyone this right diminished the value of a vote? NO. If anything, allowing everyone to vote grants even more value, more honor, more responsibility to the vote.
Yet here we are, in the year 2014, and we have failed. In a typical midterm election, a mere 40% of citizens vote. (2) We have become so complacent to voting that we have almost disregarded it entirely. Most people, in response to their inaction, respond, "My vote doesn't make a difference." Well, friends, I am positive that if the other 60% of us voted, that would make a difference.
I understand the frustrations of politics today. Trust me. As a political science major, I am constantly confronted with issues that upset me to the dangerous point of indifference. "Aw heck," I think, "why even bother?" This initial response is natural, but do not stay there. Press forward. Make a difference.
The risk of great danger is too inevitable if we don't make a difference. Staying in the realm of complacency makes us average. This individual indifference towards our own capabilities creates an entire culture of indifference. "Each community has a definite theme that forms it interiorly and gives it its particular countenance. " (3) Our failure to vote as a whole has brought our culture to the threshold of not just indifference and mediocrity, but to a greater susceptibility to evil.
By our indifference we become susceptible to, what Hildebrand calls, the "masses." We lose the understanding of our very personhood and get thrown into being just part of the crowd. "A mass ... robs each person of his individuality, categorizing everyone as 'average.'" (4) In this type of society, it is the mass whose voice gets heard not you, the person. The deeper we fall into this loss of personhood, this loss of personal responsibility, the more prone we become to losing our very voice in society.
It is this loss of personhood that concerns me the most. It is a terrible threat of danger in our time because, "a mass has a destructive effect on the human being as a spiritual person: it makes him irresponsible. The individual loses himself in a mass; he loses his head; he surrenders himself to something dark, intangible, and anonymous." (5) The more we surrender our voice to the masses, the more we just stand by on the sidelines and let others decide our fate, the more we tie our hands and do nothing, the more we end up losing ourselves to the masses.
Right now we have the luxury of deciding not to vote. If we keep this up, my friends, this luxury will become extinct. The more we believe we make no difference, the more this is true. When you skip voting, it's not rebellion, it's surrender. Do not become lost in the masses. Do not submit to the "dark, intangible, and anonymous." Make your voice heard and reclaim the power of your personhood: vote.
(1) Dietrich von Hildebrand, My Battle Against Hitler, 52.
(3) Dietrich von Hildebrand, My Battle Against Hitler, 322.
(4) Dietrich von Hildebrand, My Battle Against Hitler, 323.
(5) Dietrich von Hildebrand, My Battle Against Hitler, 323.